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VIEWPOINT: The 2012 Freedom to Marry ballot initiatives: On the ground in four key states

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By Jill Barkley, ACLU of Maine & Meredith Curtis, ACLU of Maryland & Dean Jackson, ACLU of Washington & Jana Kooren, ACLU of Minnesota

Marriage for same-sex couples is on the ballot in four states this November, and it will be a pivotal moment for the LGBT movement. In Maine, Maryland and Washington, voters have the opportunity to expand the freedom to marry to same-sex couples; and Minnesota voters could make that state the first ever to defeat a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Even a single ballot box win would change the national debate and would reinforce the polls showing growing majorities across the country that support marriage for committed same-sex couples.

In each of these states, ACLU affiliates are actively engaged in local coalitions committed to defending the freedom to marry. With less than 40 days until the election, we'll be providing you with a window into the advocacy work happening on the ground. Check back every two weeks to learn about the organizations, people, and volunteers working tirelessly to protect all families. We'll share photos, videos, victories and challenges in the states where marriage is on the ballot.

Maine: It's not a partisan issue

A diverse and growing coalition of over 100 partners has been working together, under the umbrella organization Mainers United for Marriage since February to demonstrate broad support for marriage for same-sex couples in Maine. The ACLU of Maine is proud to serve as a coalition partner. Executive Director Shenna Bellows and Legal Director Zach Heiden serve on the Executive Committee for the campaign, helping to guide important strategic decisions for a win in November.

For this campaign, the ACLU of Maine has chosen to make good on the promise that marriage for same-sex couples is not a partisan issue. In April, ACLU of Maine Marriage Project Coordinator Jill Barkley began outreach to supportive Republicans across the state. Working closely with the campaign, a group called "Republicans United for Marriage" was formed. The group consists of elected officials, former party chairs and active registered Republicans across the state of Maine. The goal is to reach Republicans who will in turn reach out to their friends, family and colleagues about this issue. For more information about the campaign in general, please visit

Maryland: Taking action

The ACLU of Maryland is a board member of Marylanders for Marriage Equality which is a coalition of more than 130 groups across the state working to defend the Civil Marriage Protection Act of 2012 from referendum challenge this November. Together, we are recruiting volunteers for phone banks and canvassing, hosting house parties across the state, and supporting efforts to secure the TV and radio ads needed to reach voters.

The ACLU is also helping to organize supporters to work on the ground: On Saturdays and Sundays throughout the rest of September and October, activists can join us for Weekends of Action. Volunteers across the state will knock on doors and call voters to talk to them about supporting The Civil Marriage Protection Act (Question 6).

Contacting friends and neighbors in Maryland who vote is a crucial component of this campaign. Our opponents will spend millions on TV and radio ads that will mislead voters. Marylanders for Marriage Equality will be on the ground talking to Marylanders and making sure they get the facts on Question 6.

Minnesota: Many voices stand together

The ACLU of Minnesota took its first case fighting for LGBT equality over 40 years ago. In 1970 we filed the first marriage case in the country and we have not given up the fight for equality since.

On Nov. 6, Minnesota has a chance to become the first state ever to defeat a freedom-limiting marriage amendment. We have been a part of the coalition group opposing the marriage amendment in Minnesota, Minnesotans United for All Families, since day one. We are a strong and vibrant coalition with over 650 partner organizations ranging from religious organizations, to businesses to non-profits.

We hope that as a coalition of many voices we can stand together and defeat this amendment!

Washington: Committed couples and communities of color

The ACLU of Washington is a member of the Governance Committee for Washington United for Marriage (WUM), a coalition of more than 600 organizations, congregations, unions and businesses working together in coalition to defend civil marriage for loving, committed same-sex couples. WUM is working to approve Referendum 74 which will uphold SB 6239—a bill signed into law by Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire in February 2012.

The ACLU is helping coordinate Communities of Color Alliance's support for R74. The site features links to fact sheets for different ethnic communities, as well as moving stories and videos that illustrate why marriage for gay and lesbian couples is important to all communities of color. They can be downloaded and shared with various community organizations and individuals.

We are also coordinating Communities of Color phone banks in October and early November. These phone banks are part of an effort to reach voters who are still making a decision on this issue. Participants of past phone banks have found the conversations to be "incredibly moving and rewarding—to reach people who want to have meaningful discussion about the topic". If you are interested in volunteering or even hosting a phone bank at your home, please contact Dean Jackson at for more information.

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